Like many of you, I first learned how to knit when I was a child, and then came back to it as an adult. I started out making hats, then baby items, and then bigger projects, like sweaters. I have to confess, though, that in my early years as a knitter, I didn’t appreciate the many advantages of working with fine-gauge yarns. I only wanted to knit with worsted weights or heavier. Likewise, I didn’t quite understand why so many knitters were fascinated with making socks out of skinny yarn; it seemed so fiddly and so time-consuming. But as I knit more and more, and became more and more obsessed with yarn, I decided to give sock knitting a go.
Turns out I loved knitting socks. And one reason I loved knitting socks so much was the yarn.
The first pair of socks I knit were in Koigu, a handdyed all-wool fingering weight yarn. I had never seen colors and color combinations like the ones in Koigu, and I loved how the yarn was squishy and plump and felt wonderful sliding through my fingers. I loved the way each stitch stood so perfect and straight; the ribbing looked like it had been aligned with a ruler. Koigu was the first handpainted yarn I fell in love with, and it’s still one of my all-time favorite yarns to work with.
Next I discovered the genius of self-patterning yarns. I first encountered a yarn called Regia, a German sock yarn that was one of the first self-patterning yarns available in the US. I simply could not believe how fun it was to knit with a yarn that made, all by itself, different-colored stripes, checked patterns and other designs. Hardly any ends to weave in, no charts to follow, just watching the patterns develop as I knit my sock.
As I got more proficient at sock knitting, I began to notice all sorts of sock yarns. I learned that solid colored sock yarns weren’t boring at all—no, they were perfect for knitting more intricate stitch patterns like cables and lace. Without sharp color changes to distract the eye, one’s stitchwork was the focus of attention.
After I came to appreciate solid yarns, I began to notice yarns that had been handdyed in a single color, what most people refer to as “semi-solid” yarns. The lightness and darkness of the shades, the subtle changes in hue, became as inviting to me as multi-colored yarns.
And I began to branch out from pure wool, experimenting with different fiber blends. While most sock yarns contain some wool (it’s a nearly perfect fiber for socks, since it’s strong, soft, and elastic), sock yarn makers can add many other fibers to their yarns. I eagerly sampled cotton/wool/nylon blends, wool/silk blends, yarns with a touch of mohair, yarns extruded from bamboo or tencel fiber, even fiber made from soy or corn or with a touch of bison down spun in.
The more I began to sample sock yarns, the bigger my stash grew. And I began to wonder what else I could make with sock yarn.
The answer? As you can see from the photos, pretty much everything.
Sock yarn is lightweight, and therefore good for wearing as a layer like a shawl or stole.
It’s often machine washable, making it a good choice for easy-care baby items. It comes in every color of the rainbow, and in stripes and jacquards and speckles besides, making it tremendously fun to play with. It’s economical, too; one skein of sock yarn can knit all sorts of things, like a cowl or a lace scarf or a cute little baby jacket.
And that’s pretty much how Sock Yarn Studio came to be born: to showcase the wonderful qualities that sock yarns have for knitting things other than socks.
So in the book, you’ll find patterns, including the ones shown in the photos here, for hats, scarves, shawls, gloves, mittens, baby items, even a few bigger garments like a halter and a vest. I tried to use all different kinds of sock yarns in the book, including handdyed and machine-dyed; solid, semi-solid and multicolor; self-patterning and self-striping; and a sampling of different companies and fiber blends. I was really lucky to get some terrific designer friends to help, too, people like Franklin Habit, Véronik Avery, Wendy D. Johnson, Brooke Nico, and Melissa Morgan-Oakes.
It’s immensely satisfying to have watched Sock Yarn Studio go from a germ of an idea to a finished book that I can hold in my hands. (I even have the thrill of seeing my ten-year-old daughter modeling some of the items, photographed to perfection by the wonderful Carrie Bostick Hoge.)
I’ve had an incredible amount of fun helping bring it to you and I hope you have a lot of fun knitting and wearing the projects inside.